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Sexual Harassment or Religious Freedom?


Friendly Atheist has the story of Mary Linklater, former choir director at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, who was sexually harassed by her pastor and another prominent church member; complained; was cruelly retaliated against and eventually fired; sued; and won. The church is now appealing the judgment...
...on the basis of the "Ministerial Exception" -- the legal principle that, because of the First Amendment right to freedom of religion, religious employers have more leeway in hiring and firing than secular employers do, and can hire and fire based on religious criteria.
I'll say that again.
The Prince of Peace Lutheran Church is claiming, in court, that resisting the unwanted sexual overtures of your pastor and boss is a "religious criteria." They are arguing that screwing the pastor when he asks you to is part of the religious doctrine they adhere to, and that they have the right to fire someone who doesn't adhere to it.MORE


Please excuse me while I stare.


Also: U.S. Military Weapons Inscribed With Secret 'Jesus' Bible Codes

Coded references to New Testament Bible passages about Jesus Christ are inscribed on high-powered rifle sights provided to the United States military by a Michigan company, an ABC News investigation has found.
Scopes
At the end of the serial number on Trijicon's ACOG gun sight, you can read "JN8:12", a reference to... Expand
At the end of the serial number on Trijicon's ACOG gun sight, you can read "JN8:12", a reference to the New Testament book of John, Chapter 8, Verse 12, which reads: "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." The ACOG is widely used by the U.S. military. Collapse
(ABC News)
More Photos
The sights are used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and in the training of Iraqi and Afghan soldiers. The maker of the sights, Trijicon, has a $660 million multi-year contract to provide up to 800,000 sights to the Marine Corps, and additional contracts to provide sights to the U.S. Army.
U.S. military rules specifically prohibit the proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan and were drawn up in order to prevent criticism that the U.S. was embarked on a religious "Crusade" in its war against al Qaeda and Iraqi insurgents MORE


Yes well, in any case those Muslims just need to be converted anyway. And so much for the separation of church and state. And of course, note that part where oh the objections are being raised by a group that's "not christian". *Eyeroll* Doesn't mean that what you are doing isn't fucking WRONG, asshole. It even brings up questions about your morality, at that, considering that you all are supposed to be so much more moral than us non believers. The idiot who claimed that this is the worst example of church and state separation does need to be cited for exaggerating though.
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What to watch for in 2010:An American world of war


We, of course, think of ourselves as something like the peaceable kingdom. After all, the shock of September 11, 2001 was that "war" came to "the homeland," a mighty blow delivered against the very symbols of our economic, military, and—had Flight 93 not gone down in a field in Pennsylvania—political power.

Since that day, however, war has been a stranger in our land. ...


Although our country delivers war regularly to distant lands in the name of our "safety," we don't really consider ourselves at war(despite the endless talk of "supporting our troops"), and the money that has simply poured into Pentagon coffers, and then into weaponry and conflicts is, with rare exceptions, never linked to economic distress in this country. And yet, if we are no nation of warriors, from the point of view of the rest of the world we are certainly the planet's foremost war-makers. If money talks, then war may be what we care most about as a society and fund above all else, with the least possible discussion or debate.

In fact, according to military expert William Hartung, the Pentagon budget has risen in every year of the new century, an unprecedented run in our history. We dominate the global arms trade, monopolizing almost 70% of the arms business in 2008, with Italy coming in a vanishingly distant second. We put more money into the funding of war, our armed forces, and the weaponry of war than the next 25 countries combined (and that's without even including Iraq and Afghan war costs). We garrison the planet in a way no empire or nation in history has ever done. And we plan for the future, for "the next war"—on the ground, on the seas, and in space—in a way that is surely unique. If our two major wars of the twenty-first century in Iraq and Afghanistan are any measure, we also get less bang for our buck than any nation in recent history.

So, let's pause a moment as the New Year begins and take stock of ourselves as what we truly are: the preeminent war-making machine on planet Earth. Let's peer into the future, and consider just what the American way of war might have in store for us in 2010. Here are 10 questions, the answers to which might offer reasonable hints as to just how much U.S. war efforts are likely to intensify in the Greater Middle East, as well as Central and South Asia, in the year to come.




1. How busted will the largest defense budget in history be in 2010?


Strange, isn't it, that the debate about hundreds of billions of dollars in health-care costs in Congress can last almost a year, filled with turmoil and daily headlines, while a $636 billion defense budget can pass in a few days, as it did in late December, essentially without discussion and with nary a headline in sight? And in case you think that $636 billion is an honest figure, think again—and not just because funding for the U.S. nuclear arsenal and actual "homeland defense," among other things most countries would chalk up as military costs, wasn't included.

MORE
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xposted all over...

THE SHAPE OF WATER - TRAILER by Kum Kum Bhavnani


Website (DVD available)
The Shape of Water is a feature documentary that tells the stories of powerful, imaginative and visionary women confronting the destructive development of the Third World with new cultures and a passion for change. The film takes us to Senegal, Israel/Palestine, Brazil, and India where these new cultures, alongside old traditions, end female genital cutting (FGC), offer innovative forms of opposition to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and show how women are spearheading the implementation of renewable resources and rainforest preservation by tapping trees to obtain rubber. The Shape of Water also takes us to a vast co-operative of rural women in India (SEWA) and, in the foothills of the Himalayas, to a farm, Navdanya, set up to preserve biodiversity and women’s role as seed keepers. By interweaving images, words, and the actions of Khady, Bilkusben, Oraiza, Dona Antonia, and Gila The Shape of Water offers fresh and nuanced insights into the lives of women in the Third World.

Narratives of rescue and salvation often underlie documentaries about women’s lives in the Third World. In contrast, The Shape of Water offers a complex look that is simultaneously inspiring and yet candid about the contradictions that face women in the Third World as they make change. The rise of globalization, the end of the Cold War, environmental degradation, and failed development in the Third World have increasingly feminized poverty despite women’s entry into the labor force in unprecedented numbers. In contrast to many documentaries about the lives of Third World women which present the women as passive victims of their circumstances, this film explores women’s efforts to generate vibrant alternatives which dispel apathy by addressing the root causes of poverty.
It traces the vital efforts of women who are pioneering social justice and celebrates their success while probing the tensions in their lives.MORE
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From Times online

AMERICAN drone attacks on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan are causing a massive humanitarian emergency, Pakistani officials claimed after a new attack yesterday killed 13 people.

The dead and injured included foreign militants, but women and children were also killed when two missiles hit a house in the village of Data Khel, near the Afghan border, according to local officials.

As many as 1m people have fled their homes in the Tribal Areas to escape attacks by the unmanned spy planes as well as bombings by the Pakistani army. In Bajaur agency entire villages have been flattened by Pakistani troops under growing American pressure to act against Al-Qaeda militants, who have made the area their base.

...

Pakistani forces say they have killed 1,500 militants since launching antiTaliban operations in Bajaur in August. Locals who fled claim that only civilians were killed. MORE
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What exactly does Obama's budget do? With 1,000 jobs being lost every hour and a tax system that favors the wealthy, our guests discuss what’s in the new budget and the limits to progressive reform.
David Cay Johnston former New York Times reporter and the author of Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense, Irasema Garza president of Legal Momentum, and Joel Berg Executive Director of New York City Coalition Against Hunger and the author of All You Can Eat: How Hungry is America? discuss the budget battle.
Chris Bowers of Open Left on the netroots and Obama’s budget. Did they make a difference? And why healthcare will be at the heart of upcoming deliberations.
A report from Warehouse Workers in California organizing for living wages and fair treatment. Finally, the senate race that may at last be coming to an end. Part II of the Uptake’s documentary on Franken v. Coleman.
Thanks to the Uptake for video in tonight’s show.


Obama’s War: Is It Any Different?

It's a persistent notion: we're not like them, we're better, we're different.

As you heard on this program, it's the insidious notion from which genocides are made.

It also lies at the heart of what the Rev. James Lawson called the plantation capitalism on which our economy's based. The idea that some are expendable, that some are less human, that we are simply different, is wrapped up in our Afghanistan policy too.

The US, for example, since 9-11, seems to have believed that lives lost here in 9-11 were worth avenging even at a cost many times that of other people's lives. Each year that the combat mission continues, more Afghan civilians are caught in the combat. The US tried a troop surge in 2007 -- the number of US and NATO troops was increased by 45 percent. More civilians were killed than in the previous four years combined. MORE





In his new book, Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror, Columbia University Professor Mahmood Mamdani argues that the use of the word genocide is as political as ever and strategic ignorance about the history and current day politics of post-colonial Africa is just as great. Mamdani discusses the crisis in Darfur, the nature of Save Darfur advocacy, and what he sees as a dangerous collusion of colonialism and Anti-Terror rhetoric. Then, just in time for tax season, Robert Gates has reminded us just how much money we spend of foreign wars. Tax resisters, however, say that you don’t have to fund the imperial budget. Andy Heaslet of the Peace Economy Project, Ed Hedemann author of War Tax Resistance: A Guide To Withholding Your Support From the Military, and Robert Weissman editor of the Multinational Monitor and Co-Director of Essential Action discuss what you can do with your money and why it doesn’t have to end up as part of the defense budget.
Finally, part I of the Uptake’s documentary on the Al Franken/Norm Coleman senate race.

uh-oh.

Mar. 20th, 2009 08:11 pm
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Israeli soldiers admit to deliberate killing of Gaza civilians

The Israeli army has been forced to open an investigation into the conduct of its troops in Gaza after damning testimony from its own front line soldiers revealed the killing of civilians and rules of engagement so lax that one combatant said that they amounted on occasion to “cold-blooded murder”.

The revelations, compiled by the head of an Israel military academy who declared that he was “shocked” at the findings, come as international rights groups are calling for independent inquiries into the conduct of both sides in the three-week Israeli offensive against Palestinian Islamists.

The soldiers’ testimonies include accounts of an unarmed old woman being shot at a distance of 100 yards, a woman and her two children being killed after Israeli soldiers ordered them from their house into the line of fire of a sniper and soldiers clearing houses by shooting anyone they encountered on sight. MORE
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Firedoglake:


Speaking on behalf of AI, Middle East and North Africa Programme Director Malcolm Smart issued a very direct appeal to the Obama administration:
'As the major supplier of weapons to Israel, the USA has a particular obligation to stop any supply that contributes to gross violations of the laws of war and of human rights.
'To a large extent, Israel's military offensive in Gaza was carried out with weapons, munitions and military equipment supplied by the USA and paid for with US taxpayers' money.
'The Obama administration should immediately suspend US military aid to Israel.'
The report also "called on the UN on Monday to launch an immediate investigation into allegations of war crimes by Israel and Hamas during the conflict last month."
Findings of the report - which can be downloaded here (pdf) - include :
Both Israel and Hamas used weapons supplied from abroad to carry out attacks on civilians - thus committing war crimes ...
In their summary of findings on Israeli actions, they note:
As the fighting ended in Gaza last month, Amnesty researchers found fragments and components from munitions used by the Israeli army - including many that are US-made - littering school playgrounds, and in hospitals and people's homes. They comprised artillery and tank shells (including 'flechettes'), remnants from Hellfire and other airborne missiles and large F-16 delivered bombs, as well as still-smouldering, highly incendiary 'white phosphorus' remains from US-made shells.
They also found remnants of a new type of missile, seemingly launched from unmanned 'drones', which explodes large numbers of tiny sharp-edged metal cubes, each between 2mm and 4mm square in size. These lethal, purpose-made shrapnel had penetrated thick metal doors and were embedded deep in concrete walls. They are clearly designed to maximise injury.
Palestinian civilians killed by the metal cubes weapon, says Amnesty, include a 13-year-old girl asleep in bed, two young women on their way to a shelter in search of safety, a 13-year-old boy on his bicycle, eight secondary school students waiting for a school bus, and an entire family sitting in the courtyard of their home.
Charges against Hamas and other Palestinian parties include:
Meanwhile, in southern Israel, Amnesty saw the remains of 'Qassam', Grad, and other indiscriminate rockets fired by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups against civilian areas. These unsophisticated weapons - smuggled into Gaza or constructed from components secretly brought in from abroad - cannot be aimed accurately and do not compare with Israeli weaponry, but have nevertheless caused several Israeli civilian deaths and injuries, and have damaged civilian property.MORE


Full report
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Reflections of War - 14 Feb 09 - Part 1


On December 27, 2008, Israel's already crippling siege on the neighbouring Gaza Strip escalated into a brutal war. Al Jazeera was the only global news network reporting from both inside Gaza and Israel for the entirity of the conflict. Throughout Ayman Mohyeldin and Sherine Tadros brought news of the human tragedy unfolding to living rooms throughout the English speaking world. They found themselves as vulnerable as the civilians of Gaza and now they give their full accounts of what it was really like to report that war.



Reflections of War - 14 Feb 09 - Part 2


Reflections of War - 14 Feb 09 - Part 3


Reflections of War - 14 Feb 09 - Part 4
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Wage Theft

In the aftermath of Hurricane's Katrina and Ike federal money was set aside for the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast. What you may not know is that the Bush administration, at the same time, suspended regulations guaranteeing that federal employees receive a minimum wage. According to Kim Bobo, the author of Wage Theft in America, billions of dollars are stolen from workers every year, not only in times of crisis. And there are few incentives for employers to obey the law.
Roughly 2 million American workers are not paid a minimum wage. And some 3 million are mis-classified as independent contractors instead of employees and millions more are illegally denied overtime pay. As the recession deepens and the government pledges to create jobs will they be jobs that pay a livable wage?
GRITtv speaks to Kim Bobo, Cathy Ruckelshaus, Litigation Director for the National Employment Law Project, Terri Gerstein, Deputy Commissioner for Wages and Immigrants at the New York State Department of Labor, and Deborah Axt of Make the Road New York.



The F Word: Caterpillar And Obama

President Barack Obama, campaigning for his economic plan in East Peoria, Illinois, visited machinery giant Caterpillar Inc. where he said laid-off workers would be re-hired if Congress approved a sweeping stimulus bill.
The President visited Caterpillar's plant Thursday on the very same day that Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, became the first US college or university to divest from Caterpillar, along with five other companies involved in the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Caterpillar provides the Israeli military with bulldozers that have been used to demolish thousands of Palestinian homes and orchards and build settlements and roads, and what Israelis call a Security Fence, but Palestinians call the apartheid Wall.
For years, international activists have called for a boycott of Caterpillar products, which include heavy equipment but also jackets and shoes. And one US family has brought a suit against the company charging them with complicity in human rights crimes. On March 16, 2003, US activist Rachel Corrie was crushed under bulldozer supplied by Caterpillar, as she tried to block its path towards a Palestinian home in Gaza...Rachel's father Craig Corrie joined us earlier today with this message to the president:


War Profiteering



Even as congress denies billions in assistance to states, there is little if any talk of cutting US defense spending. Since the end of the Second World War, when Dwight Eisenhower warned of the ever expanding military industrial complex, military spending has been linked to the nation's economic well-being. In times of prosperity and economic distress, defense spending is pushed as economic stimulus. And it's a bipartisan affliction. But who benefits and what is their interest in maintaining a war time economy?
On GRITtv Pratap Chatterjee, the author of Halliburton's Army and Managing Editor of Corpwatch, Eugene Jarecki, documentary filmmaker and director of the acclaimed Why We Fight, and Scott Ritter the author of Target Iran examine the business of war and why stimulus and star wars are so hard to separate.
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So a couple of days ago, I saw this:

Israel is preparing for a wave of lawsuits by pro-Palestinian organizations overseas against Israelis involved in the Gaza fighting, claiming they were responsible for war crimes due to the harsh results stemming from the IDF's actions against Palestinian civilians and their property.

Senior Israeli ministers have expressed serious fears during the past few days about the possibility that Israel will be pressed to agree to an international investigation of the losses among non-combatants during Operation Cast Lead; or alternately, that Israelis will be faced with personal suits, such as happened to Israeli officers who were accused of war crimes in Britain for their actions during the second intifada.

When the scale of the damage in Gaza becomes clear, I will no longer take a vacation in Amsterdam, only at the international court in The Hague," said one minister. It was not clear whether he was trying to make a joke or not.MORE


They were VERY right to worry.

Gaza Update: 300 Human Rights Groups Request War Crimes Prosecution of Israel Yes indeed. Israel DID use white phosphorus. Sold to them by that bastion of liberty and justice for all, the United States of America.

1,300 people killed by Israeli forces ... 5,300 Palestinians were wounded


Some 50,000 Palestinians have been left homeless by the Israeli war on the people of Gaza, with 400,000 now lacking access to running water.


Who will save the Palestinians?

It was a hot September day in Gaza and I was sitting in the office of a Hamas-affiliated newspaper talking with a senior Hamas intellectual.

As the French news crew that had given me a ride from Jerusalem packed up their camera equipment, I took the opportunity to change the subject from the latest happenings in Gaza to a more fundamental question that had long bothered me.

"Off the record, lets put aside whether or not Palestinians have the moral or legal right to use violence against civilians to resist the occupation. The fact is, it doesn't work," I said.

Suicide bombings and other direct attacks on Israeli civilians, I argued, helped to keep the subject off the occupation and in so doing allowed Israel to build even more settlements while the media focused on the violence.

His response both surprised me with its honesty and troubled me with its implications.

"We know the violence doesn't work, but we don't know how to stop it," he said.It was a hot September day in Gaza and I was sitting in the office of a Hamas-affiliated newspaper talking with a senior Hamas intellectual.MORE


Israel Hits Another UN School before Ceasing Fire;On Ethnic and Civic Nationalisms


What Israel gained


Gaza returning to devastation
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Trapped Gaza journalist talks to Al Jazeera - 09 Jan 09




While some foreigners have left Gaza, the vast majority cannot.

One such person trapped in Gaza is Taghreed El-Khodary, a journalist.

She talks to Al Jazeera.

Weapons expert talks on Israel 'phosphorus use' - 13 Jan 09

Allegations of the use of white phosphorus have been made against Israel in their attack on the Gaza Strip and firework-like explosions during the offensive like those made when using the chemical have been widely seen. Al Jazeeras Jacky Rowland spoke with Marc Garlasco, a weapons expert, on the border with Gaza about the viability of these claims.



Israeli army 'using white phosphorus' - 12 Jan 08




Human rights groups say Israel is indiscriminately using white phosphorus in Gaza's densely populated areas.

When ignited, the chemical can burn the flesh off of a person, down to the bone.

Israel says the use of white phosphorus is permitted under international law, although it hasn't openly admitted using the chemical.

Ayman Mohyeldin reports from Gaza City.


Following the White Phosphorous trail 16 Jan 09
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Arab-Americans look to Obama - 15 Jan 09






Shihab Rattansi speaks to a panel of leading Arab-Americans in Washington DC about their hopes for the Obama administration, the Middle East crisis and more.



No place is safe for Gazans:



Mosques, hospitals, schools and homes have been hit as the Israeli air raids in Gaza City become more intense.

Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros, reporting from Gaza on the 20th day of the war, says there is no place of refuge left for Gazans in the densely populated territory.


It is speculation for the most part, cause Israel is not allowing foreign journalists in. What I am paying attention to is the weapons. And this is the article that completely crystallized my anti-war stance. These weapons? Are horrific. And abominable. And inhuman. And I can't believe that people are actually conceptualizing and building these weapons, much more using them. Is Israel using illegal weapons in its offensive on Gaza?

Last Saturday HRW hastened to publish a call to Israel to "stop unlawful use of white phosphorus in Gaza." The use of white phosphorus is permitted on the battlefield, explains Garlasco, but the side effects on humans and the environment are severe and highly dangerous. The statement notes that the "potential for harm to civilians is magnified by Gaza's high population density, among the highest in the world."

The fireworks-like explosions, the thick smoke, suffocating gas, and flames that are not extinguished by water, but rather are heightened by it - all of these are characteristic of the white phosphorus bombs the IDF is using. Garlasco believes the decision to make such extensive use of these bombs, manufactured by America's General Dynamics Corporation, stems from conclusions drawn from the Second Lebanon War, in which the IDF lost many tanks.

"The phosphorus bombs create a thick smokescreen and if Hamas has an anti-tank rocket, the smoke prevents the rocket from tracking the tank," he explains. There are two ways to use the bombs: The first is to impact them on the ground, in which case the resulting thick smokescreen covers a limited area; the second way is an airburst of a bomb, which contains 116 wafers doused in phosphorus. The moment the bomb blows up and the phosphorus comes in contact with oxygen - it ignites. This is what creates the "fireworks" and billows of jellyfish-shaped smoke. The fallout covers a wide area and the danger of fires and harm to civilians is enormous. The phosphorus burns glass, and immediately ignites paper, trees, wood - anything that is dry. The burning wafers causes terrible injury to anyone who comes in contact with them. The irony is that tear gas is included in the Chemical Weapons Convention and is subject to all kinds of restrictions, whereas phosphorus is not.

And in the meantime, in the hospitals in Gaza there are people lying in beds - among them many children - whose severe injuries and burns have appalled the medical teams.

...

DIME - the dense inert metal explosive, consisting of 25 percent TNT and 75 percent tungsten, a heavy metal. You mix the two, in a fine grain, like pepper, and when the bomb hits the ground it aerosolizes. In less than a second, the mist dissipates and explodes."

He says the advantage of DIME is that "it strikes a very small area, 10 to 20 meters, and the fire it ignites burns out very quickly; if it hits us now, we will die, but no one around us will be hurt. The problem is that when you are killed - you are ripped to shreds and there is nothing left." Indeed, the injuries DIME causes are in general more severe than those caused by a "regular" bomb.

MORE



Gazan babies born into war - 15 Jan 2009


Many of the more than 40,000 pregnant women in Gaza are unable to leave their homes for medical treatment because of the Israeli onslaught and hospitals swamped with the thousands of injured.

Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros has the story of one mother who has not seen her baby since he was born on the first day of Israel's offensive.
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Israel ordered to let international media into Gaza

Israel's supreme court today ordered the government to allow the international media into Gaza to report on the effect of the air strikes on Palestinians.
Over the past two months, foreign journalists and representatives have increasingly been restricted from entering Gaza.
Israel has closed the border completely since it began bombing the besieged Palestinian territory on Saturday.
However, the supreme court told the government it must allow up to 12 journalists to enter whenever it opens the Erez crossing, a passenger gateway, for humanitarian reasons.
The Foreign Press Association (FPA), which represents foreign journalists and began a legal battle to open the crossing to the media last month, said it had been "left with no other choice" than to accept what is a limited victory.MORE



Still nothing from Obama, and Pres. Bush refuses to leave his vacation to deal with this.
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Gaza Update: Talking Peace or Not?

According to the latest count, 375 Gazans have died and 1720 are wounded – of whom at least 200 are critical. AFP reports that 39 of those killed were children and multiple sources say the number of women and children amongst the wounded is very high – more of them were impacted by building collapses and shrapnel rather than direct hits that would kill them outright. Four Israelis have been killed by rocket attacks and about 24 wounded.
Sameh Habeed of Gaza Today reports from Gaza that:
Medical sources announced a collapse in medical sector and Gaza hospitals. Muhamad El Khozndar a doctor at Al Sehfa' hospital said on a local radio station that Gaza hospitals are no longer working properly. Bandaging stuff, medical tools, medical machines and general cleaning unavailable at the hospitals. Additionally, windows of the hospitals crashed due to a nearby bombings hit a mosque.
All oil derivatives of fuel, gasoline and cocking gas unavailable in Gaza due to a siege imposed two years ago. Bread, milk, rice, sugar, cooking oil are not available and what is inside Gaza is limited quantities stored at homes.
Add to that, it is very dangerous for people to leave their house in search of food supplies. Any mobile car, bicycle or walking persons turned to targets for Israeli military machine.



...

And while the cabinet ministers are talking, Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai is as well. You may remember Mr Vilnai – last February "speaking on Israel Army Radio, Mr Vilnai said if Palestinians increased rocket fire, they would bring upon themselves a "shoah".
Today according to Ha’aretz breaking news at 1:13 he said that “Gaza funerals are biggest achievements of operation”
So much for the search for peace.



Also:

Gazans unsure where to flee violence

Borders with Egypt and Israel have been sealed for the most part since the militant group Hamas seized power of Gaza in June last year, confining 1.4 million residents in the coastal territory, 25 miles long and six to nine miles wide.

Even those who managed to flee to Egypt during a border breach on Sunday were returned to the coastal territory.

"Asylum (is) being totally denied to Gaza's population. They have to stay in this tiny, dangerous place," said Karen Abu Zayd, of the U.N. aid agency for Palestinian refugees.

On the Israeli side of the border, attacks by Hamas have killed four people since the weekend, and sent many more running for bomb shelters — some of them in cities under threat of attack for the first time, as the range of the rockets grows.A< href="

...

Abu Zayd, the U.N. official, said the agency is preparing to turn U.N.-run schools in Gaza into shelters. Already, 200 residents slept at a U.N. school close to Gaza's border with Egypt on Sunday after Israel bombed nearby tunnels.

She said the U.N. had informed Israeli officials of their locations and did not expect them to be targeted. MORE
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Hamas history tied to Israel

Israel and Hamas may currently be locked in deadly combat, but, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials, beginning in the late 1970s, Tel Aviv gave direct and indirect financial aid to Hamas over a period of years.

Israel "aided Hamas directly -- the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization)," said Tony Cordesman, Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic Studies.

Israel's support for Hamas "was a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative," said a former senior CIA official.


According to documents United Press International obtained from the Israel-based Institute for Counter Terrorism, Hamas evolved from cells of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928. Islamic movements in Israel and Palestine were "weak and dormant" until after the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel scored a stunning victory over its Arab enemies.

After 1967, a great part of the success of the Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood was due to their activities among the refugees of the Gaza Strip. The cornerstone of the Islamic movements success was an impressive social, religious, educational and cultural infrastructure, called Da'wah, that worked to ease the hardship of large numbers of Palestinian refugees, confined to camps, and many who were living on the edge.

"Social influence grew into political influence," first in the Gaza Strip, then on the West Bank, said an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity.MORE


Funny how that scenario sounds so familiar. Soviet Union, American meddling in the Middle East, British meddling in the Middle East.

The Gaza Bombshell

After failing to anticipate Hamas’s victory over Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian election, the White House cooked up yet another scandalously covert and self-defeating Middle East debacle: part Iran-contra, part Bay of Pigs. With confidential documents, corroborated by outraged former and current U.S. officials, the author reveals how President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever.MORE


Those Who Don’t Learn From George Bush’s Mistakes Are Destined To Repeat Them

The lack of international support since the 2006 elections, followed by this rebuff to Gaza's only Arab neighbor, Egypt, compounded the deterioration of Hamas's internal support. By November, the survey showed, only 16.6 percent of Palestinians supported Hamas, compared with nearly 40 percent favoring Fatah. The decline in support for Hamas has been steady: A year earlier, the same pollster showed that Hamas's support was at 19.7 percent; in August 2007, it was at 21.6 percent; in March 2007, it was at 25.2 percent; and in September 2006, backing for the Islamists stood at 29.7 percent. I'll give you three guesses and the the first two don't count as to Hamas' position now



Al-Maliki's Party Calls for Boycott of Israel;Nasrallah Calls for Arab summit; Widespread Protests in Arab World

Preach it.

Dec. 30th, 2008 12:22 pm
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From Jon Swift's Best Blog Posts of 2008

Warfare Is What It Is


We live in an age of video and video games and our perceptions are skewed by this. We can see things with our own eyes and discount them because an 'expert' says something. We see the video image the bomb sees as it goes into its target and accept that as the reality. Reality happens after the video transmitter is exploded by the payload, that is what you do not see. Video games and TV sanitize the war experience while letting us think we are a part of the experience. The sounds, smells, and actual results are hidden away. The contents of a human body are spread everywhere, all the contents, and they are cooked. That body may have been a Saddam General or a kid walking home from a visit, you have no idea - you neither saw him nor the results. Our news organizations were roundly criticized at the time by other media, particularly Al Jazeera, for not showing civilian casualties. Whether that outlet's numbers were accurate or not is beside the question, they existed and you didn't see them.

There are issues of decency that our media adheres to, it is hypocritical in the extreme, but flatly Americans will not look at the results of a large explosion on a human body and not complain. The children, after all, might be watching and besides, we have some standards... We have illusion and garbage - not standards. That impressive fireball sent out from it a concussion wave of air and flying objects, the objects buildings are constructed of, moving at thousands of feet per second followed by heat. Anything in the path of that suffered damage, damage you do not want to think about. That shock wave compresses the human body, forcing what is inside, out.MORE
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Nazis in the military I'm so proud of my kills

Shawn Stuart-764380_36d56.jpg

[Shawn Stuart, Iraq War veteran, at a 2006 neo-Nazi rally in Olympia, WA.]



Two years ago, the Southern Poverty Law Center ran a devastating report describing the infiltration of neo-Nazis into the ranks of the American military. The Pentagon's official response was steadfast denial of the problem.
The SPLC's David Holthouse just published a follow-up report, and found, predictably, that the problem is getting worse as the conflict in Iraq drags on:
A new FBI report confirms that white supremacists are infiltrating the military for several reasons. According to the unclassified FBI Intelligence Assessment, "White Supremacist Recruitment of Military Personnel Since 9/11," which was released to law enforcement agencies nationwide: "Sensitive and reliable source reporting indicates supremacist leaders are encouraging followers who lack documented histories of neo-Nazi activity and overt racist insignia such as tattoos to infiltrate the military as 'ghost skins,' in order to recruit and receive training for the benefit of the extremist movement."
The FBI report details more than a dozen investigative findings and criminal cases involving Iraq and Afghanistan veterans as well as active-duty personnel engaging in extremist activity in recent years. For example, in September 2006, the leader of the Celtic Knights, a central Texas splinter faction of the Hammerskins, a national racist skinhead organization, planned to obtain firearms and explosives from an active duty Army soldier in Fort Hood, Texas. That soldier, who served in Iraq in 2006 and 2007, was a member of the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group.
I observed at the time that one of the uglier aspects of the presence of neo-Nazis in Iraq would be the behavior of American soldiers among civilians there: ... The source of the problem, as the report explained, was the extreme pressure military recruiters were under to fill their recruitment quotas. "Recruiters are knowingly allowing neo-Nazis and white supremacists to join the armed forces," said Barfield, "and commanders don’t remove them . . . even after we positively identify them as extremists or gang members." The military downplayed a neo-Nazi presence in the ranks, Barfield added, "because then parents who are already worried about their kids signing up and dying in Iraq are going to be even more reluctant about their kids enlisting if they feel they’ll be exposed to gangs and white supremacists."

...

... This has the deadly potential to become a significant component of the predictable surge in far-right activity likely to manifest itself in the United States in the coming months and years, especially as Democrats and liberals expand their hold on power. We run the risk of re-creating the conditions that arose in Germany and Italy after World War I: the presence of scores of angry, disaffected, and psychologically damaged war veterans, fed a steady diet of "Dolchstosslegende," poised to organize into a political force aimed at "rebirthing" the nation and its heritage.

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Everyone from the prosecutor to the reporters agree that Obama had nothing to do with the Blagovich catastrophe. But all reporters Obama still needs to explain himself. And they are going to dedicate the entire rest of the year to calls that Obama explain himself with regard to a situation that he wasn't a part of.Because Blagovich and he lived in the same town. As Kevin Drum puts it:
All well and good, but it's a little odd that Baker leaves out the role of the press in all this. I'll let Bob Somerby do the heavy lifting here, but I've lost count of the number of op-eds and TV talking head segments over the past week that have started out with something like this: "There's no evidence that Barack Obama was involved in Rod Blagojevich's pay-to-play scheme — in fact just the opposite — but...." After the "but," we get a couple thousand words with some take or another on why this is casting a "lengthening shadow" over Obama even though there's precisely zero evidence that he had even a tangential involvement in the whole thing.


In the meantime, the auto bailout saga is going strong. The Poznan Climate talks just ended, you think that some good analysis about what the hell happened there might be done at some point? More stuff is coming to light about the government is listening in on Americans, to say nothing of indiscriminately collecting phone calls, phone nos. subject lines of emails

Two knowledgeable sources tell Newsweek that the clash erupted over a part of Bush's espionage program that had nothing to do with the wiretapping of individual suspects. Rather, Comey and others threatened to resign because of the vast and indiscriminate collection of communications data....The program's classified code name was "Stellar Wind," though when officials needed to refer to it on the phone, they called it "SW."

....The NSA's powerful computers became vast storehouses of "metadata." They collected the telephone numbers of callers and recipients in the United States, and the time and duration of the calls. They also collected and stored the subject lines of e-mails, the times they were sent, and the addresses of both senders and recipients. By one estimate, the amount of data the NSA could suck up in close to real time was equivalent to one quarter of the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica per second. (The actual content of calls and e-mails was not being monitored as part of this aspect of the program, the sources say.) All this metadata was then sifted by the NSA, using complex algorithms to detect patterns and links that might indicate terrorist activity.


California is completely bankrupt, we are 21st in the world in terms of children that graduate from high school, our constitution has been torn to shreds, in fact a credible case can be made that the [The] Failed [United] State[s of America] is an actual reality. Our election system is fucked. The Bush Adminstration is fighting to keep poisoning LA air.
117 BILLION DOLLARS were completely wasted in the reconstruction of Iraq. Some guy jacked 50 BILLION DOLLARS from investors And that is just the beginning of the myriad very important stories that I have seen over the past couple of days. But no. Those aren't important.

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